The Filipino American Civil Employees of Seattle (FACES) is about to celebrate 30 years of giving a voice to Filipino and Filipino-American workers at the City of Seattle, as well as lending a helping hand to the broader community.
Founded in 1990, FACES is an open, inclusive group – one of several cultural affinity groups at the City – that aims to create community and support for its members.
Though she’s worked for the City for more than 10 years, PROTEC17 member Marie Rompon, who works for the Department of Education and Early Learning, only recently joined FACES.
“I wanted to have a place to share my knowledge and history of our culture, especially through a race and social justice lens, and to help the culture continue to blossom,” she said.
City Light employee Nathan Navarro, who is Native American, not Filipino, was invited to join FACES after having lunch with a fellow co-worker who was involved.
“I grew up in Texas with a lot of Filipino friends,” said Navarro. “We often found similarities in how our cultures were oppressed throughout history.”
Each year, the leaders of FACES meet to evaluate their accomplishments in the previous year and plan events and activities for the coming year. Some of their most popular events are their annual conference and Christmas party, plus Lumpia Fest – a series of fundraisers celebrating the delicious Filipino spring roll. The next one is coming up on March 27.
Lumpia Fest, bake sales, and the other fundraising events that FACES holds each year, support their goals of providing funding for important issues in the community.
In 2013, the group raised and donated $4,000 for disaster relief after a typhoon ravaged the Philippines. FACES has also supported the Filipino Community Center in South Seattle in establishing low-income housing for seniors and computer training for youth, as well as Filipino-American veterans who were being recognized for their military service in Washington D.C. FACES supports many other affinity groups and issues, too.
“I really like how FACES has a strong sense of helping the community,” said Navarro. “And they really know how to party!”
At its peak FACES had more than 300 members. In recent years, membership has decreased to around 85 due to the significant number of people retiring from City employment. But the group is still as active as ever, and are coming up with new ideas to attract the younger generation of City employees.
“We want young people to be proud of their culture, and to help them build a support system and family in the workplace,” said Rose Almachar Alves, a PROTEC17 member at City Light who has been a FACES member since the beginning.
Jonathan Batara, PROTEC17 member at Seattle Public Utilities, thinks it is really important to reach out to the next generation, as well as across cultures.
“It’s important to celebrate different cultures in the workplace to understand, respect, and keep an open mind,” he said.
The annual conference put on by FACES is often attended by people of all cultures as it addresses a multitude of community and social justice issues.